• Pittsburgh Hotels: Then and Now

    FROM THE Fall 2018 ISSUE
  • Pittsburgh Hotels: Then and Now

    FROM THE Fall 2018 ISSUE
  • Pittsburgh Hotels: Then and Now

    FROM THE Fall 2018 ISSUE
  • Pittsburgh Hotels: Then and Now

    FROM THE Fall 2018 ISSUE
  • Pittsburgh Hotels: Then and Now

    FROM THE Fall 2018 ISSUE
  • Pittsburgh Hotels: Then and Now

    FROM THE Fall 2018 ISSUE


Then: The Salvation Army building, built from limestone blocks with stained-glass windows, ornate vaulted beams and hardwood accents in 1924, originally served as a charitable social service institution and was used to provide vital practical services to the poor, marginalized and underserved members of the community. 

The building’s most significant accommodation was known as the Evangeline Residence, which was unique to the Salvation Army because it provided a safe, clean, comprehensive living facility for professional women, rather than just women in need (other charitable social service institutions did not offer this service at the time). 

The building allowed for the consolidation of the administrative functions from all 28 counties of the Western Pennsylvania Divisions of the Salvation Army, and housed all of the general offices and headquarters, as well as rooms for rent. The building also featured an auditorium, a swimming pool, basketball court, theater and even a chapel. 

Now: The Distrikt Hotel Pittsburgh found its home in the old Salvation Army Building in 2017. As one of the city’s newest hotels, the Distrikt has 185 bedrooms and suites across 10 floors. 

The former gymnasium was converted into a restaurant and the former chapel now operates as a modern coffee and juice bar by day and a cocktail and oyster bar by night.

While “Districkt” comes from New York City’s Dutch roots (the only other Distrikt Hotel is located in Times Square), the Pittsburgh property was created as a tribute to the city and its neighborhoods. 

The hotel lobby still features the building’s original stained-glass windows and the dark wooden floorboards and brown lounges complement the hotels vintage aura, though fresh, modern touches have been incorporated. A live plant accent wall gives the lobby a refreshing pop. The property now also features a rooftop terrace, full-service restaurant and state-of-the-art fitness center, all with a clean and contemporary aesthetic made to attract a millennial audience.  


Then: Found in the heart of Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, the five-story YMCA building was built back in 1909 when the steel industry was booming. Then known as the city’s “second downtown,” East Liberty had become one of the nation’s wealthiest areas by the 1950s.

The YMCA building became a neighborhood refuge and gathering spot for those of all walks of life, including Pittsburgh natives and transplants new to the city, rich and poor, young and old. The original façade of the YMCA has been preserved, as has its terrazzo floors and the lobby’s marble staircase. 

Now: The Ace Hotel Pittsburgh is now part of a collection of urban hotels with homes in Kyoto, Chicago, New Orleans, London, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, New York City and Portland, but many of the site’s original details and designs still remain. 

The lobby features a soft palette of earth tones, while guest rooms create a minimalist and retro feel with wooden furniture and a guitar and record player in every room. The property’s on-site restaurant, Whitfield, features hearty, seasonal and farm-driven fare sourced from local ranches, purveyors and artisans. 

The building’s original three-floor gym still remains, providing both guests and locals a chance to join in games of corn hole or shuffleboard or take in tournaments, performances and events. On weekends, you can find a DJ, drinks and dancing in the vintage ballroom. 


With quarrying still a massive industry in the East United States, the Fulton Building was built in 1906 by local architect Grosvenor Atterbury and named after Robert Fulton, the designer of the New Orleans steamboat. Fulton’s invention was the first to travel the nation’s western waters and like the Fulton Building, many other Pittsburgh landmarks were later built from stone quarried from other parts of the country. 

The Fulton Building first served as an office building, then as a World War II veteran’s hospital, and from 1979 to 1984 it was home to a trade school and a nightclub by the name of Heaven. In 2002, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Renovations of the building lead to several discoveries including an X-Ray lab on the sixth floor lined with 3,000 pound lead panels (left from the veteran’s hospital). 

Restoration of the building’s courtyard was the largest project of its kind on the East Coast since the restoration of the Statue of Liberty, requiring 40,000 pounds of baking soda to clean the copper. The lobby’s “pony walls” were also restored.

The Fulton Building’s medallion, which was first discovered at the base of the grand staircase, now lives at The Frick Pittsburgh. Logos above the building’s current elevators match the medallion. The building’s rotunda dome, which was originally outfitted with pneumatically operated windows to help cool the lobby, assembled and lifted into the place in 1906, prior to the invention of cranes. 

Now: In 2001, the building was transformed into the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel we know today. Featuring a mix of historic and urban detail, the classic architecture of the Fulton Building accompanies a sleek and modern design throughout the hotel’s 295 guest rooms and suites, which include plush bedding, chic décor and 12-foot ceilings. 

Located in the heart of the city’s Cultural District, the riverfront hotel offers luxurious accommodations and signature service. 


Then: Originally built in the Beaux Arts-style in 1903 to serve as an electric company, the James H. Reed Building later became a law firm, established by its eventual namesake. Reed, who was a close friend of Andrew Carnegie, managed various legal technicalities for the Carnegie’s and later became the director of the United States Steel Corporation. The building remained home to the Reed Smith law firm until 2008. 

Now: While the exterior of the old building remains, the interior of the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh features bold pops of color and collections of collections of art and sculpture that catch your eye.

Each of the hotel’s 248 guest rooms includes a bold Kelly green headboard, a bedside chandelier ensconced in a golden bird cage and a ceramic penguin lamp perched on the desk, Italian linens and in-room recycling and yoga mats.

The hotel also offers a rooftop beer garden and the upscale on-site restaurant, The Commoner, which serves up classic comfort food in a vibrant setting.


Then: Built in 1931, the seven-story Federal Reserve Bank of Pittsburgh building served as a repository of currency for regional banks and a trading and auction center for securities and bonds. Originally covered in Georgia marble, Pittsburgh architect William York Cocken added a 10-story addition to the building made out of limestone in 1956.

Custom-designed steel security gates were built over the windows on the ground floor and the entrance and lobby of the building were decorated with art deco castings, marble and stainless steel trims. 

Now: The building took two years to preserve and renovate and in 2012, it became the Drury Plaza Hotel Pittsburgh Downtown. The hotel features 207 guest rooms and plenty of event space. 

Many of the key elements that make the building so beautiful have been preserved, including two of the building’s original basement vaults which have been converted into meeting rooms and feature the original vault doors. The exterior of the hotel remains in the original Georgia marble and beautiful limestone finish. 


Then: In 1885, the Kaufmann brothers built a new 12-story, 700,000-square-foot department store at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street (an ideal location at the time due to Pittsburgh’s roaring industrial economy). The store, which attracted plenty of wealthy shoppers, eventually helped put Pittsburgh on the map as a big city.

The building operated as Kaufmann’s for 133 years, then as a Macy’s for 10 years, but closed in 2015.

Now: The building is now being transformed into a hotel, apartments, offices, and retail shops with a rooftop swimming pool and tennis courts (for residents only). Massive video screens and water displays will also surround the building’s lobby elevators.

Two atriums have been preserved from the building to give the project an open-air feel and plans for the space include a built-in “Amazon Alexa and Savant” operating system software that will respond resident’s commands, such as raising and lowering shades. 

The EVEN Hotel Pittsburgh, which will occupy the old Kaufmann’s building, is the first of its kind in Pittsburgh and is centered on keeping an active lifestyle while traveling. The hotel will feature a 24-hour athletic studio and in-room fitness zones, along with a health food selection throughout the hotel and in its restaurant. The hotel will provide natural eucalyptus linens and spa-inspired showers as well as comfortable and calming work places to create a home-away-fromhome feel for guests. 

Kristin Wenger is the communications director of VISITPittsburgh.

Looking for an outdoor venue to host a large group for dinner?  


Duckpin bowling, pinball machines, shuffleboard, foosball tables and a vintage arcade.